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ACT English


ACT English Strategies for Success Sentence Fragments Incomplete sentences Even though the rain had stopped. Having spent his last dollars on sunglasses. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: ACT English

ACT English
  • Strategies for Success

EnglishOne 45 minute section with 75 questions
  • Usage and Mechanics
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar and usage
  • Sentence structure
  • Rhetorical Skills
  • Writing strategy
  • Organization
  • Style

Usage and Mechanics
  • Part 1 Punctuation

Usage Mechanics - Punctuation
  • Commas
  • Apostrophes
  • Semicolons
  • Colons
  • Parenthesis and Dashes
  • Periods, Question Marks, and Exclamation Points

Punctuation - Commas
  • Commas separate Independent Clauses (FAN BOYS)
  • Lesley wanted to sit outside, but it was raining.
  • Henry could tie the shoe himself, or he could ask
    Amanda to tie his shoe.

Commas In a Series
  • A series contains three or more items separated
    by commas. The items can either be nouns (such
    as dog) or verb phrases (such as get in the
  • The hungry girl devoured a piece of chicken, a
    pound of pasta, and a slice of chocolate cake.

Commas Separate Adjectives
  • A comma separates adjectives only if they can be
    in reverse order and still make sense.
  • Rebeccas new dog has long, silky hair.
  • My mother hates noisy electronic music.

Commas Set Off Clauses and Phrases from a
Complete Sentence
  • Commas set off clauses and phrases from a
    complete sentence
  • After preparing an elaborate meal for herself,
    Anne was too tired to eat.
  • Anne was too tired to eat after preparing an
    elaborate meal for herself.

Commas Set Off Nonessential Elements
  • Nonessential elements embellish nouns without
    specifying them (Extra info).
  • Everyone voted Carrie, who is the most popular
    girl in our class, prom queen.
  • The decrepit street sign, which had stood in our
    town since 1799, finally fell down.

Commas Essential Elements
  • Essential elements are not set off by commas
    because they are necessary to the meaning of the
  • The girl who is sick missed three days of school.
  • The dog that ate the rotten steak fell down and

Commas Appositives
  • An appositive is a phrase that renames or
    restates the modified noun, usually enhancing it
    with additional information.
  • Everyone voted Carrie, the most popular girl in
    school, prom queen.
  • The dog, a Yorkshire Terrier, barked at all the

  • Apostrophes are the second most commonly tested
    punctuation mark on the English Test.
  • Apostrophes primarily indicate possession, but
    they are also used in contractions.

Apostrophes Possessive and Singular Nouns
  • A singular noun can be made possessive by adding
    an apostrophe followed by an s.
  • Simons teacher was in the room.
  • My mom forgot the dogs food.
  • We removed the bottles label.

Apostrophes Possessive and Plural Nouns
  • Most plural nouns can be made possessive by
    adding only an apostrophe.
  • The boys teacher was in the room.
  • My mom forgot the dogs food.
  • We removed the bottles lables.

Apostrophes Plural Nouns
  • For plural nouns that do not end in s, you
    should treat the plural form as a singular noun.
  • The womens locker room needs to be cleaned.

Apostrophes Possessive and Multiple Nouns
  • Sometimes youll want to indicate the possession
    of more than one noun.
  • The placement of the apostrophe depends on
    whether the possessors share the possession.
  • Nick and Noras dog solves crimes.
  • Dans and Joanns socks are dirty.

Apostrophes Explanation
  • In the example of Nick and Nora, the dog belongs
    to both of them, so you treat Nick and Nora as
    a single unit.
  • In the second example, both Dan and Joann have
    dirty socks, but they dont share the same dirty
    socks, so you treat Dan and Joann as separate

Apostrophes Wrong Word
  • The ACT will test on your ability to distinguish
    between its and its.
  • Other commonly tested issues
  • their/theyre/there
  • your/youre
  • whose/whos

  • Youll usually find several questions dealing
    with semicolons on the English Test.
  • The main functions of a semicolon that you should
    know for the test are its ability to join related
    independent clauses and its use in a series.

Semicolon Independent Clauses
  • Semicolons are commonly used to separate two
    related but independent clauses.
  • Julie ate five brownies Eileen ate seven.
  • Josh needed to buy peas he ran to the market.

Semicolon Explanation
  • In the previous examples, the semicolon functions
    as a weak period. It suggests a short pause
    before moving to a less-related thought.
  • Generally, a period between these independent
    clauses would work just as well, so the ACT wont
    offer you a choice between a semicolon and a

Semicolons Independent Clauses with a Transition
  • Frequently, you will see two independent clauses
    joined by a semicolon and a transitional adverb
    (such as however, consequently, furthermore,
    nevertheless, etc.)
  • Julie ate five brownies however, Eileen ate
  • Josh needed to buy peas thus, he ran to the

Semicolons A Series
  • The semicolon replaces the comma as a structural
    backbone of a series if the items already contain
  • The tennis tournament featured the surprise
    comeback player, Koch, who dropped out last year
    due to injuries the up-and-coming star Popp, who
    dominated the junior tour and the current
    favorite, Farrington, who won five of the last
    six tournaments.

  • Colons are used after complete sentences to
    introduce related information that comes in the
    form of a list, an explanation, or a quotation.
  • When you see a colon, you should know to expect
    elaborating information.

Colons Examples
  • The wedding had all the elements to make it a
    classic the elegant bride, the weeping mother,
    and the fainting bridesmaid.
  • The wedding had all the elements to make it a
    classic the elegant bride beamed as her mother
    wept and as the bridesmaid fainted.
  • The mothers exclamation best summed up the
    wedding If only the bridesmaids hadnt fainted!

Colons Problems
  • A colon should ALWAYS be preceded by an
    independent clause.
  • Wrong
  • The ingredients I need to make a cake flour,
    butter, sugar, and icing.
  • Right
  • I need several ingredients to make a cake flour,
    butter, sugar, and icing.

Colons Problems
  • There should never be more than one colon in a
  • Wrong
  • He brought many items on the camping trip a
    tent, a sleeping bag, a full cooking set, warm
    clothes, and several pairs of shoes sneakers,
    boots, and sandals.
  • Right
  • He brought many items on the camping trip a
    tent, a sleeping bag, a full cooking set, warm
    clothes, sneakers, boots, and sandals.

Other ACT Punctuation
  • The English test rarely test punctuation marks
    other than those already listed.
  • However, in the odd case that test writers do
    throw in some other punctuation errors, you
    should know what to expect.
  • The ACT officially states that it covers, in
    addition the previously mentioned punctuation,
    parenthesis, dashes, periods, question marks, and
    exclamation points.

  • Parenthesis usually surround words or phrases
    that break a sentences train of thought but
    provide explanatory information for it.
  • The road trip (which was made in a convertible)
    lasted three weeks and spanned fourteen states.

  • Similarly, parenthetical sentences can be
    inserted between other sentences, adding
    additional information to them without diverting
    their flow.
  • Their road trip lasted three weeks and spanned
    fourteen states. (The one they took two years
    ago lasted two weeks and covered ten states).
    When they got home, they were exhausted.

  • Dashes function similarly to parenthesis.
  • Dashes indicate either an abrupt break in thought
    or an insertion of additional, explanatory
  • He walked slowly with his hurt leg he couldnt
    go much faster that even his neighbors toddler
    eventually overtook him.
  • I dont have the heart to refuse a friends
    request for help do you?

Periods, Question Marks, and Exclamation Points
  • These are the least common forms of punctuation
  • The sentence ends here.
  • Does the sentence end here?
  • Hooray, the sentence ends here!

Usage and Mechanics
  • Part 2 Basic Grammar and Usage

Basic Grammar and Usage
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • Pronoun Cases
  • Verb Tenses
  • Adverbs and Adjectives
  • Idioms
  • Comparative and Superlative Modifiers

Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Singular verbs must accompany singular subjects,
    and plural verbs must accompany plural subjects.
  • The man wears four ties.
  • His favorite college is in Nebraska.
  • Matt, along with his friends, goes to Coney
  • The men wear four ties each.
  • His favorite colleges are in Nebraska.
  • Matt and his friends go to Coney Island.

Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Subject-verb agreement is a simple idea, but ACT
    writers will make it tricky.
  • Often, theyll put the subject at one end of the
    sentence and the verb a mile away.

Subject-Verb Agreement Examples
  • An audience of thousands of expectant people who
    have come from afar to listen to live music in an
    outdoor setting seem terrifying to a nervous
  • A. No Change
  • B. seems
  • C. have seemed
  • D. to seem

Subject-Verb Agreement Explanation
  • To solve this problem, cross out the junk in the
    middle that separates the subject, an audience,
    from the verb, seem.
  • Youre left with An audience seem terrifying to
    a nervous performer.
  • Now you can see what the verb should be An
    audience seems terrifying to a nervous performer.

Subject-Verb Agreement Collective Nouns
  • Collective nouns (such as committee, family,
    group, number, and team) can be either singular
    or plural
  • It depends on whether the noun is being treated
    as a single unit or as divided individuals.

Subject-Verb Agreement Collective Nouns
  • Singular
  • The number of people living in Florida varies
    from year to year.
  • Plural
  • A number of people living in Florida with they
    had voted for Gore.
  • Singular
  • The committee decides on the annual program.
  • Plural
  • The committee have disagreed on the annual

Subject-Verb Agreement Collective Nouns
  • Trick -
  • The is generally singular
  • A is generally plural

Subject-Verb Agreement Indefinite Pronouns
  • Indefinite pronouns refer to persons or things
    that have not been specified.
  • These can be tricky because some indefinite
    pronouns that seem plural are in fact singular.
  • Indefinite pronouns are popular with ACT writers,
    so youd be wise to memorize a few of these.

Subject-Verb Agreement Indefinite Pronouns
  • These are always singular, and they tend to
    appear on the English Test
  • Another Everybody Nobody
  • Anybody Everyone No one
  • Anyone Everything Somebody
  • Anything Each Someone

Subject-Verb Agreement Indefinite Pronouns
  • The most commonly tested are the ones previously
  • You probably wont come across more than a couple
    of indefinite pronouns on the English Test you
  • Examples
  • Anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to vote in
    the United States.
  • Each has its own patch of grass.

Subject-Verb Agreement Compound Subjects
  • Most compound subjects (subjects joined by and)
    should be plural.
  • Kerry and Vanessa live in Nantucket.
  • The blue bike and the red wagon need repairs.

Subject-Verb Agreement Compound Subjects
  • There is or There are
  • Depends on whether the noun is singular or
  • There are five grapes.
  • There is a cat

Subject-Verb Agreement Compound Subjects
  • Or or Nor
  • If you have singular subjects joined by an or
    or nor, the sentence always takes a singular
  • Either Susannah or Caitlin is going to be in

Subject-Verb Agreement Compound Subjects
  • Or or Nor
  • If one of the subjects is plural and the other is
    singular, the verb agrees with the subject closer
    to it.
  • Neither the van nor the buses were operating
  • Either the dogs or the cat is responsible for the

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • ACT writers usually include several
    pronoun-antecedent agreement errors on the
    English Test.
  • An antecedent is a word to which a later pronoun
    refers back.
  • Example
  • In the sentence Richard put on his shoes,
    Richard is the antecedent to which his refers.

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • Wrong
  • Already late for the show, Mary couldnt find
    their keys.
  • Right
  • Already late for the show, Mary couldnt find her

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • Sometimes the agreement error isnt as obvious on
    the test.
  • In everyday speech, we tend to attempt gender
    neutrality and brevity by using their instead
    of his or her.
  • People tend to say someone lost their shoe
    rather than someone lost his or her shoe.

Pronoun Cases
  • The ACT writers will definitely include some
    questions on pronoun cases
  • Nominative
  • Objective
  • Possessive
  • You dont need to know the names of these cases,
    but you do need to know the differences.

Verb Tenses
  • You LIE down for a nap.
  • You LAY something down on the table.
  • You LAY down yesterday.
  • You SWIM across the English channel.
  • You SWAM across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • You HAD SWUM across the bathtub as a child.
  • To lie and to swim arent the only tricky
  • See provide handout for a list of more.

Adverbs and Adjectives
  • ACT writers will test you once or twice on your
    ability to use adjectives and adverbs correctly.
  • To describe a noun, use an adjective.
  • To describe a verb, adjective, or adverb, use an

Adverbs and Adjectives
  • Examples
  • Wrong My mom made a well dinner.
  • Right My mom made a good dinner.
  • Since dinner is the noun, the descriptive word
    modifying it should be an adjective (good).

Adverbs and Adjectives
  • Adverb/Adjective errors are pretty common in
    everyday speech, so dont rely entirely on your
    ear. For example
  • Wrong She shut him up quick.
  • Right She shut him up quickly.
  • Wrong I got an A easy.
  • Right I got an A easily.

Comparative and Superlative Modifiers
  • Comparative modifiers compare one thing to
  • Examples
  • My boyfriend is hotter than yours.
  • That purple-and-orange spotted dog is weirder
    than the blue cat.
  • Dan paints better than the other students.

Comparative and Superlative Modifiers
  • Superlative modifiers tell you how one thing
    compares to everything else.
  • Examples
  • My boyfriend is the hottest boyfriend in the
  • That purple-and-orange dog is the weirdest pet on
    the block.
  • Of all the students, Dan is the best.

Usage and Mechanics
  • Part 3 Sentence Structure

Connecting and Transitional Words
  • Coordinating Conjunctions
  • (and, or, for, nor, so, but, yet) connect words,
    phrases, and independent clauses of equal
    importance in a sentence.
  • Words you can hand the bottle to Mike or Beth.
  • Phrases To get there, you must drive over a
    bridge and through a farm.
  • Clauses Time can go to the store, or Jen can go

Transitional Adverbs
  • These adverbs can also join independent clauses
    (however, also, consequently, nevertheless, thus,
    moreover, furthermore, etc.)
  • When they do, they should be preceded by a
    semicolon and followed by a comma.
  • Joe always raves about soccer however, he always
    refuses to watch a match.
  • If you cant go to the prom with me, let me know
    as soon as possible otherwise, Ill resent you
    and your inability to communicate for the rest of
    my life.

Sentence Fragments
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Even though the rain had stopped.
  • Having spent his last dollars on sunglasses.
  • Always a bit shy.

Sentence Fragments
  • The answer choices on English Test questions will
    often make clear whether you should incorporate a
    fragment into a neighboring sentence.
  • Example
  • We didnt go outside. Even though the rain had
  • No Change
  • outside
  • outside even
  • outside, even

Sentence Fragments
  • Other sentence fragment questions will ask you to
    turn a fragment into its own full sentence.
  • Example
  • We didnt go outside. While the rain continued to
  • No Change
  • Although the
  • The
  • Since the

Comma Splices
  • A comma splice occurs when two independent
    clauses are joined together by a comma with no
    intervening conjunction.
  • Bowen walked to the park, Leah followed behind.
  • Mary bought cookies for the party, Johnny bought

Run-on Sentences
  • Two or more independent clauses joined together
    without punctuation.
  • Joan runs every day she is preparing for a
  • John likes to walk his dog through the park Kevin

Run-on Sentences
  • Figure out where the sentences need to be split
    and punctuate accordingly.
  • John likes to walk his dog through the park.
    Kevin doesnt.
  • John likes to walk his dog through the park, but
    Kevin doesnt.
  • John likes to walk his dog through the park
    however, Kevin doesnt.

Misplaced Modifiers
  • Does the following sentence sound odd to you?
  • Having eaten six corn dogs, nausea overwhelmed
  • Nausea didnt eat six corn dogs. Jane did.
  • This is a case of a misplaced modifier.
  • The modifier must come directly before or after
    the word it is modifying.

Misplaced Modifiers
  • Correct Answers to previous sentence
  • Having eaten six corn dogs, Jane was overwhelmed
    by nausea.
  • Jane, having eaten six corn dogs, was overwhelmed
    by nausea.

Misplaced Modifiers
  • Wrong
  • Bill packed his favorite clothes in his suitcase,
    which he planned to wear on vacation.
  • Right
  • Bill packed his favorite clothes, which he
    planned to wear on vacation, in his suitcase.

Misplaced Modifiers
  • Other Examples
  • Only Jay walked an hour to the store.
  • This means no one but Jay made the walk.
  • Jay walked only an hour to the store.
  • This means the walk to the store wasnt too bad
    it took Jay only an hour.

  • When you see a list on the English test, look for
    a parallelism error.
  • Parallelism errors occur when items in a list are
  • If you have a list of verbs, then all items in
    the list must be verbs of the same tense.

  • Example
  • Wrong
  • In the pool area, there is no spitting, no
    running, and dont throw your cigarette butts in
    the water.
  • Right
  • In the pool area, there is no spitting, no
    running, and no throwing your cigarette butts in
    the water.

  • More Examples
  • Wrong
  • To grow tired of London is growing tired of life.
  • Right
  • To grow tired of London is to grow tired of life.
  • Wrong
  • Growing tired of London is to grow tired of life.
  • Right
  • Growing tired of London is growing tired of life.

Rhetorical Skills
  • Part 1 Writing Strategy

Writing Strategy
  • Writing strategy involves improving the
    effectiveness of a passage through careful
    revision and editing.
  • Choose the most appropriate topic or transitional
  • Choose which sections of an argument can be

Rhetorical Skills
  • Organization

  • Sentence reorganization questions often invoke
    the placement of a modifier in a sentence.

  • Example
  • Austen wrote about a society of manners, in which
    love triumphs over a rigid social hierarchy
    despite confinement to her drawing room.
  • No Change
  • (place after love)
  • (place after Austen)
  • (place after society)

Rhetorical Skills
  • Style

  • Redundancy
  • Redundant statements say the same thing twice.
  • ALWAYS avoid redundancy on the test.
  • Wrong The diner closes at 3 a.m. in the morning.
  • Right The diner closes at 3 a.m.

  • Appropriate Word Choice
  • The content of a passage will generally give you
    a clue about the appropriate tone.
  • Tone is one of the most important elements in
    correctly answering word choice questions.

  • Word Choice Example
  • During the Great War, the British Public believed
    that Lloyd George rocks! He was wisely admired
    for his ability to unify the government and thus
    to unify Britain.
  • No Change
  • rocked!
  • was an effective political leader.
  • had the ability to unify the government and thus
    to unify Britain.

Question Types
  • The Question TypesThere are three main question
    types youll encounter in ACT English
  • Economy
  • Sense
  • Technicality

  • These questions test your understanding of
    whether material is strictly essential to the
    passage, or whether it could be said more simply
    or economically.

  • These questions ask you to identify and correct
    logical flaws in the passagestatements that just
    dont make sense.

  • These questions check your knowledge of key
    punctuation, grammar, and usage issues.

Suggested Strategies for taking the English Test
  • Practice pacing yourself on the test.
  • Taking a practice test will help you feel more
    comfortable with the pace at which you should
    work. You should allow about 30 seconds for each

Strategies continued
  • Answer every question.
  • First do the questions that are easy for you.
    Eliminate the answers youre sure are incorrect.
    Guess the answer from the remaining choices. You
    wont be penalized if your guess is wrong (and it
    might be right).

Strategies continued
  • Save the hard items for last.
  • If you find yourself spending too much time on
    any one question, circle it in the test booklet
    and pass it by. Return to it if you have time

Strategies continued
  • Notice that the directions ask for the BEST
    answer. That means that you cannot stop at the
    first correct answer you find. You must read all
    the choices and select the one you think is best.

Strategies continued
  • Read the text before and after the underlined
    portion before selecting your answer.
  • The correct answer will be consistent with the
    authors intent for the paragraph and the passage
    as a whole.

Strategies continued
  • Determine the best phrasing for the underlined
    portion on your ownthen look for it among the
    answer choices.
  • Re-read the sentence you are correcting,
    substituting your answer for the underlined
    portion to make sure it is the best answer.

Strategies continued
  • Circle the letter for the answer choice in your
    test booklet. Going back and forth from the test
    booklet to the answer sheet can be difficult,
    takes time, and may result in a mis-marked
    answer sheet. When you have circled the answers
    for each two page spread, transfer the answers to
    the answer sheet.

Strategies continued
  • All that matters is what circle you fill in. If
    you get the right answer but fill in the wrong
    circle, it will be wrong!

Strategies continued
  • Keep it short. Almost a third of all the English
    items test your awareness of redundancy,
    verbosity, relevance, and similar issues. For
    these economy questions, the shortest answer is
    frequently correct.
  • Avoid wordinessthink short and clear.

Strategies continued
  • Sentences must have fluency or flowsay it to
    yourself in your head to hear how it sounds.
  • When in doubt, look for the two shortest options,
    and pick the one that sounds the best.

Strategies continued
  • RELAX!!!
  • Realize that you will make mistakes.
  • Remember that the average score for the ACT is
    about 55 correct.

Quick Summary
  • When in doubt, take it out.
  • Make sure it makes sense.
  • Use your ears.
  • Look for pitfalls.

Do you think youre ready???
  • Lets practice!!!